Captain’s Bait, Tackle and BBQ, the restaurant that opened at Bing’s Landing park in the Hammock in 2012, will expand its porch area by some 800 square feet, though its 200-seat restaurant will not be increasing capacity. The Flagler County Commission approved the change in the county-leased business at its meeting this morning (June 6).
Commissioners were concerned that the physical expansion of the 3,140-square-foot facility might increase congestion at the county park. But Jay Livingston, the attorney representing the restaurant, said that other than the restaurant’s popularity, there should be no effects on parking needs.
“The covered porch area, even though it appears as though it’s increasing the square footage, what it’s going to do is eliminate some of the overcrowding in the interior areas,” Heidi Petito, the county’s facilities director, said. There will be upgrades in flooring and seating. The plan is part of an $80,000 investment in the facility by Captain’s owners, according to the county, but at no cost to the county.
“I’d like to see some options to better utilize the parking,” Commissioner Frank Meeker said. “For example it’s very difficult to get to the parking on the south side and get back out.” He wants an overall plan on Bings and south of Bings.
The Hammock Community Association is opposed to the expansion. A representative of the association told the commission that Bing’s is primarily a county park and a recreation facility, and that the expansion was slated without enough notice for the association to study it. The representative asked the commission to table the matter until its members had a chance to analyze the proposal. “I think the county has gone beyond helping Captain’s, and they should appreciate what they have now,” the Hammock representative said. “But this expansion will create more problems for the park.” The representative added: “If you agree to this now, they’re going to come back and ask for more.”
The fact that we have a successful business that’s willing to upgrade and expand is good news, the kind of economic development that we want,” Rebecca DeLorenzo, president of the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce, said, opposing tabling the proposal. The owner of J.T. Seafood Shack and a member of the Hammock Business Association also lent his support to Captain’s. Another resident who often frequents the restaurant said the jamming in the parking lot is not necessarily related to Captain’s BBQ, but to the popularity of the park. “There’s more people in town, there’s more visitors coming down,” she said, urging the commission to consider expanding parking overall. “It’s not because of the restaurant.”
The restaurant is under a 10-year lease with the county, paying $660 a month in rent, or $7,920 a year. That increases by $480 a year.
“When there’s growth there will always be some opposition,” Chris Herrera, the owner of the restaurant, which employs 21 people, said, citing a petition in response filled with several hundred signatures supporting the expansion.
Barbara Revels, the county commission chairman, said she favored delaying the item to give the county a chance to study parking issues. But County Administrator Craig Coffey said improving parking “will take some time,” or about three months. “Whether we like it or not, we need more parking here and in other locations,” he added, citing the county’s growing population. It’s now exceeding 100,000. He said the parking problem is not necessarily related to the restaurant. “Those things aren’t just for Hammock residents. They’re for all residents.”
Commissioners ended up unanimously approving the proposal, stressing that there would be no net increase in seating capacity, but also directing the county administration to begin studying improvements to the parking areas.